Iargo Springs: Michigan's Hidden Gem
A Hidden Spot next to the Au Sable River
Every place you go to has the standard tourist places to visit. But, it’s a lot more fun to get off the beaten path and see some things that only locals know about.
One of my favorite places is down the road from my cabin. It’s a little lookout and historical spot called Iargo Springs and it’s part of the River Road Scenic Byway in the northeastern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It’s a little site along the US 23 Heritage Route.
It’s one of many spots where you can loot out at the Au Sable river cutting through Huron National Forest.
The main observation platform juts out into the trees and it feels like you’re in a giant treehouse. Also, Iargo Springs is mostly a summer destination. I’ve found the main platform to be a great spot to see the changing color of Autumn and even a good place to take in the quiet majesty of the winter forest.
There are plenty of great sites from the overlook.
Just one note, if you are even a little afraid of heights I wouldn’t suggest looking down. I had been going there for years and it never occurred to me just how high up it feels. I recently looked down. Do not recommend it.
But, the lookout is just the first step. Literally.
The hill from which the springs emanate is far too steep to climb down unassisted so in the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built a stair system to get down to the springs.
Now, the stairs are not for the faint of heart. To get to the bottom, one must descend some three hundred steps to reach the end. Luckily, there are tons of observation platforms complete with benches so you can pretend to be bird watching when far more fit people blow by you on both your way down and on your way back up. It’s a little disheartening when you’re halfway to the end and some little kid runs all the way down without even breaking a sweat.
But, I can speak for the many who have made the trip, the stairs are worth it.
Once you’re done there it’s a series of connected boardwalks over babbling springs and to be honest it looks like someplace the elves from Middle Earth would leave. It’s a quiet sanctuary among the woods.
There are man-made waterfalls that create little brooks creating a pleasing sound as you walk around. Often, I go here during the warmer months and the shade from the trees and the proximity to water make the temperature much more bearable. Plus, at the terminus of each boardwalk, there are small lookouts right at the river’s edge. It’s a great place to see wildlife. I’ve seen herons, storks, turtles, and fish.
It can just be a quiet place to sit or I’ve taken my sketch pad there to do nature studies. And, every Spring birdwatchers descend on the area to catch glimpses of the migratory avians. But, I think one of the best uses is for photography. It has tons of great backdrops as well as closeup views of the river and wildlife.
Of course, after spending time down around the water one must go back up all those stairs. But it’s a good workout and it’s worth it to see the springs. Plus, on your way up you can go as slow as you want. I like doing this to find all the hidden messages people have written on the old wooden staircase.
So if you find yourself in the woods of northern Michigan I suggest you stop for a few minutes you won’t regret it.
If you really like it the springs are along the high banks trail and you can follow the river in a pleasant and easygoing hike.
But I can't recommend it enough.